Burger review: Burger Boss
3208 N. Southport Ave. 773-248-2677
Rating: ! 1/2 (out of 4)
I must admit that as much as I adore my name—The Great Burgerelli has a nice ring to it, yes?— there are times when it can feel a tad formal. At those times, my cohorts refer to me simply as "Burger Boss," or "Boss" for short. That considered, you can understand why I took great interest in the recent opening of Burger Boss in Lakeview, a second location of the original in west-suburban Elmwood Park run by brothers Nick and Anthony Gambino. Would these fine lads do my nickname justice?
The burger: Let it be known that I am serious about quality. So serious, in fact, that I dream of one day building a burger lab to study in detail every patty I consume. Until then, I must rely on the kind assertions of strangers. Anthony Gambino told me the Burger Boss patties are made from "young cows that fall in the top 8 percent of all angus beef … harvested on the Illinois/Iowa borders" that are grass fed and then grain finished to give the beef what he called "superior flavor and marbling." I appreciate the attention to detail, but worry that flavor has been rendered out of the thin patties by overcooking them to well-done. The taste of the Boss's beef certainly is better than the beef they serve at run-of-the-mill fast-food establishments, but it was a bit on the dense side. Price-wise, the burgers start at $4.09 for a single and $4.89 for a two-patty option. I recommend that one order at least two patties. A great burger is only as good as its beef-to-bun ratio; order a single and suddenly you'll find yourself on a brioche bun safari looking for lost meat.
Beyond the beef: To get a full picture of offerings at Burger Boss, I also ordered the seasonal turkey burger (all natural from Michigan) and the black bean veggie burger. The turkey wasn't wound as tight as the beef burger and was quite juicy. The veggie burger, however, was reminiscent of the kind you'd find in a grocery store freezer. Gambino later confirmed that it indeed was from one of the original gangsters of veggie burger manufacturing, Gardenburger.
The bun: I quite admire the pillowy brioche bun baked by a North Shore bakery (which bakery exactly, I may never know, as the Gambinos claim it is a trade secret). I could lay my big Burgerelli noggin to sleep on the egg-rich crumb. The Boss also offers a whole wheat and a pretzel option for an upcharge of 25 cents and 50 cents, respectedly.
The fixings: Mouth-watering toppers include cage-free fried eggs, guacamole and blue cheese (each 90 cents). There are also some pre-set flavor combinations. I tried the Bleu Boss burger (I understand that is also what Jay Z and Beyonce call their baby daughter) featuring blue cheese, sautéed mushroom, golden caramelized grilled onion, lettuce and mayo ($4.99 for a single). The assertive, stinky cheese was nicely balanced by the mellow sweetness of the onion.
I also appreciate that Burger Boss offered the aforementioned turkey patty topped with cranberry and stuffing ($4.09), a sort of portable Thanksgiving Day on a brioche bun. I appreciated the tartness of cranberry and the sweetness of stuffing. One quibble: They should have made the bun out of stuffing, for between the bun and the stuff, there was far too much bread.
The fries: Typically, I prefer a heftier fry cut—shoestrings are best left where they belong—but sweet potato fries are often soggy when cut thick. The Boss's ($3) glisten with sea salt crystals, puff a sweet squash-like perfume and are exquisite, some of the best I have ever eaten. The regular french fries ($2.10) were also well-salted and golden, with bits of skin on the ends. I liked them too, but did wish for a thicker cut.
Everything else: I was quite moved by the service at Burger Boss. The very helpful cashier not only guided me through the ordering process, answered all my strange questions about beef provenance and, unbidden, brought a sample of the creamy, cinnamon-y pumpkin shake to my table, but she also graciously mopped up some root beer my dining companion clumsily spilled.
Bottom line: Service is quick and inviting. Given a choice between a stop at a chain burger joint and Burger Boss, the Boss reigns supreme. But, in the quick-service burger arena, the Boss patty isn't quite as well-griddled as that of Five Guys, or as flavorful as the specimens at M Burger. But, then again, those establishments do not have the great brioche bun or the great sweet potato fries of Burger Boss.
The Great Burgerelli is a fearless seeker of fine burgers. email@example.com